A gay rugby player who facing deportation to Kenya has won the right to asylum in the UK.
Mechanical engineer Kenneth Macharia, 41, moved to the UK in 2009 but has been embroiled in a five-year battle with the UK Home Office over his refugee status.
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, with same-sex sexual activity between men carrying a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. Hostility towards LGBTQ people also sadly remains rife throughout Kenyan society.
After being detained by immigration enforcement officers in 2018, Kenneth’s plight came to wider public attention after the LGBTQ-inclusive rugby team he plays for, Bristol Bisons RFC, launched a campaign to put a stop to his deportation.
Kenneth, who spoke to Attitude about his case in 2019 – the year he and his teammates were honoured with an Attitude Pride Award – revealed at the time how the UK Home Office appeared to dismiss the gay rugby lover’s sexuality from the beginning.
“The first time I applied [for asylum] in 2016, they basically said they didn’t believe I am gay”, he said at the time.
This week, a first-tier tribunal of the immigration and asylum chamber upheld Kenneth’s appeal against deportation, ending a years-long battle against the Home Office.
Reacting to the news, Macharia indicated that the stress of the ordeal would take a long time to recover from.
“When I tell people close to me the news, they are jumping with joy and excitement, I put on a smile and pretend to share the same level of enthusiasm”, he said in a statement.
“It’s been a very long struggle, since 2016. I have had my hopes crushed too many times. I can’t help wondering what will go wrong. The sadness has not gone away. I used to be optimistic. It will be a while before I am again.
“I am very grateful for all the support I have received. Very many people came to my aid at my time of need. The list is very long, some I know, some I don’t.
“Thanks to each and everyone of you. It will take me a bit of time to truly believe this nightmare is over and be at the same level of enthusiasm as you.”
In a statement, Bristol Bisons RFC said: “Firstly, we’d like to thank everyone for their continued support throughout the past couple of years. We still regularly receive messages asking as to the proceedings, anything that can be done and Ken’s general well-being.
The team added: “Thank you to everyone who has offered their time, money and support throughout the fight.”